Authentic Math Tests

A quick thought, during a busy exam period: if the math in my curriculum is worth learning, then shouldn’t I be evaluating the students in a way that reflects that? Instead, we’re stuck with problems, seemingly the math teacher’s only tool.

I’d love for my standardized examinations to ask students to draw conclusions from table of data or develop a business model as a mathematical function. Instead, the IB Math Studies exams (paper 1) have two points, out of 90, reserved for “mathematical reasoning” — that is, thinking. We can do better.

This problem isn’t exclusive to math. Physics also finds itself in the problem-shaped hole (although the IB Physics exams do a decent job of balancing between explanation and calculation). The humanities, on the other hand, seem obsessed with the academic essay.

Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be much of a push toward authentic assessments, in the IB or otherwise. I think part of the issue is that we’ve all gotten used to the problems/essays, and have grown our courses around them. For now, I’ll try to do what I can to create authentic learning and assessment experiences for my students, while also teaching them to solve “problems”.


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